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India begins regulating captive breeding of exotic animals through license system

ByJayashree Nandi
May 13, 2023 10:28 AM IST

Licence can be obtained to breed species of various bears and pandas such as the Red Panda, various species of dogs, wolves, cats, apes, chimpanzees, gibbons, lemurs, squirrels, armadillos, various birds including Hornbills, Macaws, Parakeets, Owls, and various reptiles among others

Those who breed exotic species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and listed in Appendix 1 of Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act 2022 can now obtain Breeders of Species Licence under the Breeders of Species Licence Rules, 2023 notified on April 24 by the Union environment ministry.

There are strict import rules for endangered exotic animals and plants in India. (WWF India)

Appendix 1 of Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act 2022 has species of various bears and pandas such as the Red Panda, various species of dogs, wolves, cats, apes, chimpanzees, gibbons, lemurs, squirrels, armadillos, various birds including Hornbills, Macaws, Parakeets, Owls, various reptiles among others. Appendix 1 of Schedule IV are endangered exotic animals and plants and import rules are stricter for them.

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The Wildlife Protection Act 2022 seeks better implementation of CITES. It proposes to rationalise and amend the schedules that list out wildlife species to ensure better care of seized animals and disposal of seized wildlife parts and products. India is a party to the CITES, which requires that appropriate measures are taken to enforce the provisions of the convention.

Any person who is engaged in breeding in captivity or artificially propagating a scheduled specimen listed in Appendix I of Schedule IV shall, within a period of 90 days of the commencement of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2022, make an application to the Chief Wild Life Warden for the breeders’ license, the notification states. Any person who intends to engage in breeding in captivity or artificially propagating a scheduled specimen listed in Appendix I or renewal of Licence shall make an application to the Chief Wild Life Warden. Every such application shall be accompanied with a fee of 25,000 through electronic mode or in the form of demand draft drawn on any bank in India in favour of the Chief Wild Life Warden payable at the place where the office of Chief Wild Life Warden is situated.

The Chief Wild Life Warden can authorise Deputy Conservator of Forests to endorse the application, and on receipt of the application the authorised officer can scrutinise the application as expeditiously as possible--If on scrutiny, the application is found to be in order, it shall be registered and given serial number; If the application on scrutiny is found to be defective, the same shall be returned to the applicant for rectifying the defects and resubmitting the corrected application within 15 days from the date of its receipt. The rules also specify the process of verifying these applications. Every person to whom a licence under these rules has been granted shall maintain record of stock in case of artificially propagated specimen. The Chief Wild Life Warden or the Deputy Conservator of Forests concerned having jurisdiction over the area as and when required, may call for record for inspection from the person to whom the Licence has been granted. The notification also lays down the process for cancellation of license of breeders.

“Captive breeding of exotic species protected under CITES was not regulated in the Indian laws until the recent amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2022. This notification laid down the procedure to be followed for regulation of breeding of exotic species under CITES Appendix I and trade in them.

Article VII of the CITES states that species included in Appendix I, when bred in captivity (animals) or propagated artificially (plants) for commercial purposes are deemed to be specimens of species included in Appendix II. Thus, this notification may facilitate an increase in breeding of such species for export and commercial purposes,” said Debadityo Sinha, Lead- Climate & Ecosystems, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.

“Captive breeding can act as a conservation tool only if it is used to restock a species whose population has collapsed in the wild, but the habitat is still intact. It does not help when habitat loss is the primary cause behind the collapse of a species, as is the case in India. The best way to conserve a species is by safeguarding its natural habitat. Captive breeding is the last resort and never an elixir for life,” said Anish Andheria, CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Trust.

“Also, to legitimise breeding of native wild animals in captivity can put tremendous pressure on its wild counterparts from the ever-present threat of illegal wildlife trade, especially, when we don’t have regulatory mechanisms in place,” Andheria added.

“I only hope this doesn’t empower the powerful, rich hobbyists and breeders and private zoos. Some rich and famous already have these exotic animals with them. CITES has to be enforced stringently at the border level. It should not be used as license to breed exotic animals. Rich can easily pay a fee of 25,000 to breed them. We have to be very careful otherwise this compliance with CITES will turn into a disaster as you cannot release these animals into the wild later,” said a researcher who declined to be named.

According to Wildlife Protection Act 2022, whenever a Scientific Authority is of the opinion that the export of specimens of such species requires to be limited in order to maintain that species throughout its range at a level consistent with its role in the ecosystems in which it occurs and well above the level at which that species might become eligible for inclusion in Appendix I of the Convention, it shall advise the Management Authority to take such appropriate measures to limit the grant of export permits for specimens of that species as the Scientific Authority may deem necessary for said purpose.

An import permit for a specimen of a species listed in Appendix I of Schedule IV shall not be granted unless— (a) the Management Authority is satisfied that the specimen concerned will not be used for primarily commercial purposes; (b) the Scientific Authority has advised that the import will be for purposes which are not detrimental to the survival of the species; and (c) the Scientific Authority is satisfied that the proposed recipient of a living specimen is suitably equipped to house and care for it.

While introducing the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill 2022 in Lok Sabha, Union environment minister, Bhupender Yadav had said the amendment has been introduced to meet India’s obligations under CITES.

“India is a member of CITES. The pace at which wildlife resources and species are being lost, this agreement was made to address that. In India illegal trade in wildlife is regulated under the Customs Act, Exim policy, Directorate General of Foreign Trade and the Wildlife Protection Act. CITES made a provision for separate regulation for illegal trade in wildlife. The UPA (the United Progressive Alliance government) did not complete their assurance under CITES. But we (the National Democratic Alliance government) are doing it now. Lok Sabha passed it and now I expect this bill to be passed by Rajya Sabha also,” Yadav had said.

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